Archives for the month of: October, 2013

No, you are not confused. Today is not Thursday but you are receiving this week’s edition of Thoughts for Thursday a day early. Although I offer “thoughts for Thursday” each week, hopefully they are good for any day of the week.

Thursday evening the streets will be filled with many ghosts and goblins. Children will go from door to door in their neighborhoods and shouts of “Trick or Treat” will be heard. It has become an annual tradition to dress up in costumes and go from house to house expecting to receive treats. There is a thinly disguised threat when treats or not given but it is seldom acted out.

Spirit Halloween, the largest seasonal Halloween retailer in North America, suggests that Halloween costumes are largely influenced by significant cultural moments. The first-ever “Pop-Costume Index,” illustrates the intersection between pop culture and popular costumes during the past three decades.

Their data shows perennial favorites to include Princess Leia’s famous gold bikini which debuted in 1983 and continues to be very popular 30 years later. Another very popular costume is the ultimate “bad guy” Darth Vader. Batman and his counterparts – Robin, Catwoman and The Joker – were top costumes in 1989, 1992, 1997 and 2008. Pirates of the Caribbean helped pirate-themed costumes become a Halloween favorite in 2003. The Avengers were the crowd favorite in 2012 when their movie came out.

Twilight’s overwhelming popularity in 2009 resurrected a Halloween costume classic -vampires. I suspect the success of The Walking Dead will result in zombies everywhere in tonight’’s Trick or Treaters. Children’s hit television programs such as the Care Bears (1986), Barney (1993) and SpongeBob SquarePants (2004) not only won the hearts of kids across the country, but also led the way in costume trends for adults.

Here’s hoping everyone will have fun and be safe.

The word Halloween dates to about 1745 and some believe it is of Christian origin. The word “Halloween” means “hallowed evening” or “holy evening”. It comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows’ Eve (the evening before All Hallows’ Day). The Scottish word for “eve” is even, and this is contracted to e’en or een. Over time, this evolved into Halloween.

According to many scholars, All Hallows’ Eve is a Christianized feast. Thus the day after Halloween is a very special and different kind of day. Even before the “sugar high” wears off from all the Halloween candy, be sure to take note of All Saints Day. 

All Saints’ Day is celebrated on November 1 by parts of Western Christianity in honor of all the saints, known and unknown. It is a national holiday in many historically Catholic countries. Christians who celebrate All Saints’ Day do so in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual bond between those in heaven and the living. In many Christian churches the word “saints” refers to all Christians and therefore, on All Saints’ Day, the Church Universal, as well as the deceased members of a local congregation, are honored and remembered.

I wish you a Happy Halloween and a Holy All Saints Day.

Jamie Jenkins

Advertisements

Alex Haley, the author of Roots, had a picture in his office showing a turtle sitting atop a fence. The picture was there to remind him of a lesson he learned long ago: “If you see a turtle on a fence post, you know he had some help.”

Haley said that when he began to be puffed up with pride the picture would help him realize that like that turtle he could not have achieved such success without the help of others. This much acclaimed journalist and author understood what Thomas Merton asserted: “Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.”

It was John Ruskin, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist of the 19th century, who said, “… the first test of a truly great man is his humility. … Really great men have a feeling that the greatness is not in them but through them; that they could not do or be anything else than God made them.” 

Madonna- not the Mother of Jesus but the entertainer- once said, “I won’t be happy until I am as famous as Jesus.” Her words express an attitude that stands totally opposite of humility. She would be well served if she heeded the advice of D. L Moody to be humble or you’ll stumble.

It has been said that humility is the solid foundation of all virtues. Sadly it is far too infrequent that you find a person who is truly humble. Pride and bravado are much more frequently observed in human behavior.

I remember a story of a little girl who was chosen as a volunteer from an audience to help a magician perform his magic tricks. She held a hat, out of which he pulled a rabbit, picked cards from a deck as he did card tricks, and held open a box for everyone to see after the magician made objects disappear inside. Overcome by it all, she burst out, “Hey, I’m getting pretty good at this!”

George Washington Carver, the scientist who developed hundreds of useful products from the peanut said, “When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘That knowledge is reserved for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well, George, that’s more nearly your size.’ And he told me.” 

Winston Churchill was once asked, “Doesn’t it thrill you to know that every time you make a speech, the hall is packed to overflowing?” “It’s quite flattering,” replied Sir Winston. “But whenever I feel that way, I always remember that if instead of making a political speech I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big.” 

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome, “Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities..” (Romans 12:3, J. B. Phillips New Testament).

 It is good to remember, “Pride comes before a disaster, but humility comes before respect” (Proverbs 18:12, CEB). Right relationships with God and others always begin with humility, not arrogance.

 

Jamie Jenkins

I have heard people say, “If I had his talent, I would do great things.” Or, “If I was as rich as her, I would solve a lot of the world’s problems.”

Many people wrongly believe that the more you have the more good you will do. There is a mistaken perception that the more gifted a person is the more likely they are to achieve great things. On the contrary, life has taught me that generosity has very little to do with the wealth of a person and significant accomplishments are often at the hands of very ordinary people.

I am convinced that all a person needs to make a difference in the world is whatever they have. It does not matter whether it is wealth, fame, good looks, extraordinary ability, exceptional intelligence, or abundant opportunity. People with none of these can and do accomplish much good in the world.

The thing that makes the real difference is a willingness to use whatever you have, no matter how great or small. Compassion and generosity are character traits that have very little, if anything, to do with physical or financial resources.

Every day tons of donated goods are distributed to folks in need. Soup kitchens feed many hungry people because churches, businesses, civic clubs, other groups and individuals prepare and serve the meals. People pass on their gently used clothing or shop for new underwear and socks so others might have decent attire. Volunteers teach classes and help folks prepare resumes and find jobs. Compassionate people greet guests, wash clothes, and offer encouragement at homeless shelters. Doctors and nurses provide free health care for the uninsured.

John R. Moeller, Jr. summed up what I am trying to say when he describes how non-profit organizations can serve so many people. He said, “I see deep need being filled by deep compassion and generosity.”

Forbes Magazine estimates Bill Gates’ wealth at $72 billion, making him the richest man on earth. When Gates stepped down from the day to day operation of Microsoft to devote himself to charitable work he said, “With great wealth comes great responsibility.” Can you say Amen?!

It is true “to whom much is given, much is required.” But it is equally true that everyone has a responsibility to give back. Generosity is not measured in amount, but attitude.

There is a story in the Bible where people were making a big show of how much they put into the temple offering. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two of the smallest coins in circulation. Jesus said, “She gave more than everyone else combined (because) she gave all she had.” The others had given that which they would not miss but she gave what she could not afford.

The Parable of the Talents and other stories help us to understand that if you want to do good, all you need is what you have. That principle applies whether we are talking about money, time, talent, or influence. Instead of waiting until we have more before we invest in the lives of others, we need to start with what we have where we are NOW. All you need is what you have!

Jamie Jenkins

I met Jesus at the IHOP last week.

My wife and I went to the restaurant near our home in Peachtree Corners, GA to redeem a coupon for a free Rooty Tooty Fresh N Fruity. ® This IHOP classic comes with two eggs, two bacon strips, two pork sausage links and two fluffy buttermilk pancakes crowned with cool strawberry topping, warm blueberry or cinnamon apple compote (my preference), then whipped topping as the finishing touch!

It may not be very healthy but the dish is delicious and enough food for two average people. It seems to me that any adult who will speak their order out loud for the Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity should get it free.

It would be easy for me to get carried away describing this culinary delight but that is not my purpose for writing. My intention is to describe how this dining outing became a spiritual experience.

Upon arrival at the restaurant we were greeted by a pleasant young man who showed us to our table. When he returned to take our order we saw from his name tag that Jesus was serving us. This should not have come as a surprise because anyone with just a little knowledge of the Bible knows that Jesus told his followers that he came to serve- not to be served. Many of his followers- both ancient and modern- fail to understand that basic truth of the Christian faith.

Unfortunately many followers of Jesus demonstrate an attitude of arrogance and entitlement. This disposition is in sharp contrast to the instructions the Master gave to those who were attracted by his teachings and example. He told them that anyone “who wants to be great among you must become a servant.” They should be content to be at the back of the line instead of pushing to the front.

The server at our neighborhood IHOP came from Mexico when he was five years old. In his native language his name is properly pronounced “Hey-soos” but when translated into English it is “Jee-sus.”

We joked with him and asked if he could walk on water. He replied that he had never tried it and didn’t think he would.

I know that Jesus is a common name in some cultures. Nevertheless the gentle and pleasant way the restaurant employee discharged his responsibilities was a lesson for me. It reminded me how those of us who claim to be followers of the biblical Jesus of Nazareth ought to behave toward others all the time.

We are supposed to welcome the stranger and love our neighbor. We are called to be as concerned about the welfare of others as much as we care for our own needs. We are called to serve the needs of others. And to do it with an attitude of gratitude. Thank you, Jesus, for the reminder.

Jamie Jenkins

 

Incentives are often used to assist in changing behavior.

A few years ago a MichiganStateUniversity study discovered that 97% of the faculty members and staff who bet $40 that they could stay with a six-month exercise program were successful. Only 19% of a non-betting group stayed with their six- month program.

At one point in the first grade our youngest child began to hate going to school. He would resist getting out of the car when you dropped him off for classes. An idea hit me one morning as we approached the driveway to the school. I told him if he would get out of the car and not make a scene every day that week, I would pick him up on Friday and we would go to the Dairy Queen and have a Blizzard.

Amazingly my idea worked. That began a weekly ritual for Jonas and me last lasted several years. Every Friday after school you could find us at the local DQ enjoying a wonderful ice cream treat.

Parents use different methods to motivate their children to clean their room, do their assigned chores, or brush their teeth. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Incentives and rewards work for adults as well as children. Several years ago my health insurance provider changed the focus from illness to wellness. The priority shifted from helping people who were sick to assisting and encouraging folks to be healthy. Cash and other incentives were provided if people had an annual wellness exam or participated in certain healthy habits. Pedometers were provided with a way to earn rewards by getting and staying active.

Credit card promotions offer cash back, points that can be converted into cash, hotel stays, or merchandise. Although they are not as valuable or as easy to redeem as they once were, frequent fliers can build up mileage that can be used to save money on future travel plans.

Retail stores use a variety of gimmicks to encourage customer loyalty. Rewards for spending a certain amount or discount coupons are among the methods used by Macy’s, Belk’s, Ace Hardware, and others. One Day Sales (with a Preview Day the day before) promise big savings. Deferred or low interest lures people to purchase home furnishings, appliances, and automobiles.

There are more “deal of the day” offerings than you can shake a stick at. Websites like Scout Mob and Groupon have used the technology of smart phones and the internet to revolutionize the way people shop for bargains.

Warehouse clubs like Sam’s and Costco promise cheaper prices on quality merchandise to folks who pay a membership fee and are willing to buy toilet tissue, apples, or cereal in large quantities.

Incentives are offered to professional athletes and coaches in addition to their sometimes astronomical salaries. A baseball pitcher might earn hundreds of thousands of dollars extra if he pitches a certain amount of innings or wins a certain amount of games. A football quarterback can make an additional bundle of money if he throws enough touchdown passes or a clause in a coach’s contract can include incentives for winning his league or conference championship.

There is one incentive that surpasses all others. For those who wisely and responsibly use the resources and opportunities that God provides, the reward at the end of life’s journey will be to hear the Lord say, “Well done! You are a good and faithful servant. You’ve been faithful over a little. I’ll put you in charge of much. Come, celebrate with me” (Matthew 25:23, Common English Bible).

Jamie Jenkins